Recently in the Circle Of Dawn group I run, we finished early because one of the players was ill. This then allowed us to talk much longer about the sessions than we have done previously. This retrospective about Session 13 did become quite shouty and heated at times. No one fell out with each. The main issue was a combat at the start of the session and it seemingly, to the players, was unfair.
The combat in question was instigated by an enemy of one of the player characters so all attacks were focussed on them and as such they were taken out of the fight quite early. Although people’s memories (including mine) of how early that happened was flawed. However that as it may be, two of the players didn’t find this combat fun regardless of the reasonings. I let them know why the combat went down that way. To make this clear, I hadn’t designed the combat with strict criteria, as in this was going to happen no matter what. The only criteria was for Lucretia Dominica to take out here enemy Vinessa, as quickly as possible.
One of the other things the players thought was an issue with this combat was that Lucretia Dominica was overpowered for the group at that time. She was a 6th Circle Thief/Illusionist. The group of 4 are all 4th Circle Adeptas. The make up being Obsidiman Warrior, Human Nethermancer, Human Elementalist and Vinessa being a Human Thief. However the group prevailed.
Regardless the above, the fact remains that two players didn’t have fun, which then moved onto a discussion out of that session as to what is fun, and the player of Kallias shared some thoughts with me and a few links. The first one I will discuss here. My comments are specifically related to the campaign I am currently running.
Gaming For Fun
|Gaming for Fun (Part 1): Eight Kinds of Fun this is in response to a research paper called MDA: A Formal Approach to Game Design and Game Research. I haven’t read the paper as yet only the commentary in this first part, which I will now discuss below.|
Before I read the page at the link above I made a few notes of what I think are some of the important aspects of what makes a RPG fun. Not the main research paper isn’t specific to RPG’s but gaming in general.
Not just stats of your PC, but their personality and discovering who they really are
Gaining new abilities and those new abilities allowing you to do things you’ve worked hard to achieve
Story developing in unexpected ways
Figuring stuff out ahead of time by putting pieces together
Getting rewards, money, items, power, allies, recognition, praise
Things happening that you never expected in the slightest
Creating relationships and connections with NPC’s that are meaningful
Connections that help guide you and give you some information to move forward [AKA YODA]
Being able to have a significant part in the story and make an impact
Achieving goals, personal goals and story goals
Making plans and for those plans to succeed
What you do has repercussions and should be persistent and consistent
Invoking fear, surprise, shock, WTF?!?
What you’re supposed to be doing is fairly clear, but no so clear that you know everything. Just the basics and what to do next, and slowly picking up threads to keep moving forward.
Feeling lost is a defo NO NO.
Now Onto The Article
GAME AS SENSE-PLEASURE
If you prefer the tactile feel of things, but that is missing with Online play. Unless you have physical books to thumb through, but that’s about it. No nice dice to play with and throw.
We play online so we only have the visual and audio to play with
VISUAL: I personally love this part and try very hard to make things look cool, rather than it just being a tool. The need to have purpose beyond just looking cool.
AUDIO: When we started I did have audio but found the players could hear any of it. Since then I haven’t gone back to it and fixed the problem. I’ll have to have another crack at it. Again this is something I’d like, and think would add to the atmosphere of the game, some quiet background sounds, nothing intrusive.
GAME AS MAKE-BELIEVE
Self explanatory. Keep the immersion and try not to break the immersion. I wholly agree with this, which is why I have stated to the group, everything you say is in character. I’d love for a whole session to be 100% in character with no comments/jokes that reference anything that’s outside the game world. An unrealistic expectation, but I think striving to achieve this isn’t an issue. It would become an issue, if and when, failing to achieve it had a negative impact on my enjoyment of the game. But knowing it’s an unrealistic expectation enables me to combat that issue.
GAME AS UNFOLDING STORY
I don’t agree with the writer here, they make it sound like everything is fixed and the game is linear. The only thing for me that is fixed is the end goal of the plotters, what they are trying to achieve. If they achieve that goal or not is determined by the players actions, not because it’s written down. The route to the end goals is fluid, because the players actions are unknown and will change that route.
GAME AS OBSTACLE COURSE
The game definitely needs to be challenging, as long as the challenges are achievable and fair. Failure isn’t necessarily a problem, as long as the player learns from the challenge and grows as a result and strives to be better next time. As long as a player believes the overcoming the challenge was a achievable, rather then it being one where you stand no chance.
The fight with Lucretia Dominica, was supposed to be a difficult challenge, but I also believed the group, would be able to overcome it, and they did. Still something was wrong here as we had a long discussion about it. Which basically came down to taking out one character to early in the combat.
Interesting point here is that challenge seekers get board if they aren’t actively trying to defeat a challenge. So lots of Role Playing and talking is of minor interest to those people. I feel I’m more rounded about this, as I believe that comes from GM’ing a lot, but with your own material, not modules. Mostly, but people being people we all like many different things.
GAME AS SOCIAL FRAMEWORK
Games can and have been ruined by that one PC who works against the group, the evil little shit. The one that never, or hardly ever agrees with what the group wants to do. I personally despise these types of people who are just having fun at the expense of other people not having fun. This we spoke about prior to starting this campaign and not resorting to the feeble excuse of “that’s what my character would do.”
Fortunately we have a fantastic group of people who work, play and have fun together.
GAME AS UNCHARTED TERRITORY
I believe this is a massive part of any game. Discovering something that you have worked hard to find and then actually finding it as you predicted, is huge. That feeling is one you try to get time and time again. Taking that discovery away by having an NPC tell you is pointless and demoralising. Nothing like figuring stuff out for yourself.
GAME AS A SOAP BOX
I need to start this with the first sentence of this article.
Gaming for Fun (Part 1): Eight Kinds of Fun
This is a big one. The 600-pound gorilla in the room. I’ve mentioned it a couple of times already. This is what I would call the “trending aesthetic.” It is the thing everyone is talking about in the RPG community (at least, online, where I can hear it) and people are starting to view it as the be-all and end-all of role-playing games.
This is such a massive grey area that there is no right and wrong. Some people like to follow, some people like to lead and then you have all the people in-between. Expressing your character as an individual with life goals and a personality has countless ways of being achieved. Some are clear rules, more variety with abilities, lots of options to choose. Others need none of that to be able to express who their character is.
For me, it’s all about the role play, the abilities and skills and stats are not needed for that. They can and do give you a guide to start from and develop over time. This is an aspect of the game that I love to express. I create my base character with this nebulous idea of who they are, and who they will become. Several sessions in some things I thought they become, change drastically. All because of the way the players I play with interacted with each other, and how the story unfolds and the potential to express my character based on what is happening.
GAME AS A MINDLESS PASTIME
Players who like to sit back and just watch the game unfold without having to do much themselves. I have and do play with people like this, but I just don’t get it. I am not an Extrovert in the sense I seek out others to interact with. I’m more introverted. But when playing in groups I can appear to be an extrovert. That is because I love to interact as much as possible. I spend a lot of time thinking about the game and what has happened, what may happen and what I’d like to do about this latest quest we are on. Discussing these aspects with others after the game, is just as enjoyable as playing the game. I make a tonne of assumptions, talk about them, many are then thrown to the way aside and just as many are put back on the list.
But some people will always just want to sit back, eat the popcorn and watch the world burn.